Martyr's Day

Trip Start Mar 03, 2005
Trip End Apr 08, 2006

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Flag of Bangladesh  , Barisāl,
Tuesday, February 21, 2006

I met my friend Mahmud in Dhaka the previous evening and we got a rickshaw down to the smelly dock at Sadarghat. The 21st of February was a public holiday in remembrance of the students who lost their lives during the language movement of the 1950's and Mahmud was taking me to his inlaws home in Barisal where I could meet his wife and child, and get a taste of some authentic Bangladeshi life. I was glad he organised the ferry trip, as I'm quite certain I'd have had no idea what to do amongst the mayhem at Sadarghat!

We spent around an hour and a half at the docks, and I was continuisly hassled by beggars and hawkers who were pounding on my cabin window. I can't say I felt totally safe, even though I was in one of the most expensive cabins on the ferry. There was no security whatsoever. Once we started though the trip was pretty good. The ferry was huge, with a packed deck, second class rooms and the individual cabins. I had another ordinary dinner, and at this stage I felt that the awful food was going to drive me out of the country. It was almost too much to bear!

The ferry docked at Barisal at 5:25am, and we disembarked at 6am making for Mahmud's wife's house. Once there I met her, her gorgeous younger sister, her mum and dad and a few grandparents. After a coffee and some snacks Mahmud and I went to lay some flowers at the Martyr's Day ceremony in the centre of town. Barisal was a really quiet, quaint small town. From our rickshaw I saw narrow streets, hundreds of palms and old colonial buildings from the British Raj period, which was a nice change from the hectic nature of steamy Dhaka.

Later on in the morning we got a bus out to Wazirpur, which is where Mahmud's grandmother lived. It took around an hour to get there, but once we got off the bus we rode by rickshaw though the beautiful and quiet Bangladeshi countryside. I was met with countless stares, especially when we went to watch a schoolyard game of cricket. The kids actually stopped playing in order to come over and look at me!

Mahmud's grandmother seemed very healthy for her age, and her house was built among the palms and lush green rice paddies. We spent about an hour here, and ate our first lunch of the day. It was a different route we took back to Barisal, first a rickshaw and then a boat over a wide river. It was really stunning here and all the locals were very interested in me, not surprisingly! I couldn't imagine too many foreigners made it down that way.

Once we got off the boat we got another rickshaw back to the highway, but on the way we stopped at one of Mahmud's relative's house. As it happened, there was the muslim equivalent of a wake in progress, and we were invited inside for our second lunch. Mahmud had a sleep once we arrived back in Barisal, but I was fed a banquet sized third lunch by his wonderful inlaws. If anyone ever asks me for advice on visiting Bangladesh I'll have to tell them to take a big appetite! Everyone spoils the foreigner, and as kind as it was I did feel like I was being treated like a bit of a baby sometimes.

I spent the rest of the day talking to Mahmud's inlaws which was really great. It was a good opportunity to learn a little about their way of life. I once read that it was impossible to travel to Bangladesh and not interact with the locals, which was one of the reasons why I wanted to travel there. Unfortunately time wasn't on our side though, as we had to get the ferry back to Dhaka at 6:30pm. We crashed into the dock at Sadarghat sometime around 5am, and I was looking forward to a shower before my 10am bus down to Cox's Bazar.
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